Friday, September 20, 2013

What would you do with an extra 25 minutes every day?

After the initial shock and surprises surrounding the initial release of Missouri MAP score results in August, we must decide what comes next.  Winfield Middle School had growth in all three tested categories: MATH, ELA and SCIENCE  So where do we go from here?

A great take-away from PD training in Scottsdale Arizona (see picture above) at the effective schools (@effectiveschool) conference was______?

More of the same or follow through with deliberate intentional adjustments based on research applying methods proven to effect students positively?

At Winfield Middle School, we have changed many things; room assignments, courses taught, lunch order.  All of these are designed to allow content teachers the ability to visit, collaborate and compare notes on a frequent and regular basis inside the school day, without extra time added to their schedules.  In fact, its like we found extra time!

What would you do with an extra 25 minutes every day?  With our extra time, we collaborate.

Pick your local Missouri school.  What role does collaboration play in their efforts?  Is there cooperation between the teachers or competition?

A great take-away from Professional Development training in Scottsdale Arizona (see picture above) at the effective schools conference was teacher collaboration.

Monday, September 16, 2013

What does the St Louis landmark The Jewel Box have in common with good communication?

How many ways of communication are readily available today?  What lessons can we learn from glass houses?
In St Louis, our Jewel Box is just a vehicle or environment for growing things, year 'round.  Like a communication tool is only as good as the effort we make to achieve successful communication.  Is our message shared and received, or just shared?  Things won't grow in there without care.  Nothing is automatic!

At school we are easing into additional technological communication.  Not to mandate but lead, model and practice, we began twitter accounts for everyone that wanted last year.  Some were willing.  Some were reluctant.  Others were adamantly opposed.  Regardless, we have found success, learned things and were able to apply some things to our classrooms, schools and districts.

This year, we are again progressing forward.  Winfield Intermediate School and Winfield Middle School are building and publishing facebook sites to better inform our constituents. We are willing to join their preferred mode of communication to try and connect with even more of them.  The facebook page will probably not be the sole provider of school related news but just another way to reach out.

Also new this year is the application called Remind101.  From their website, a teacher establishes an account base of parents and students in their classes and can blast a text msg to the entire group.  Sort of like a one way message.  It works because teachers establish a bulletin board type account.  They get a special phone number and access code.  Then the teacher supplies the access code and phone number to the parents.  The parents text the special code to the given phone number and its done.  From then on, the teacher sends out a message to the entire class group, just like sending a text to a friend. 

Twitter is still active. Our hash tag #onthemap has become # pieceofthepuzzle.  We tried to assemble a puzzle that was missing a piece.  Frustration and blame were the immediate outcomes.  We considered our struggling students may share those feelings when they are asked to accomplish a task, even e when they are lacking a component necessary for success.  Our positions as caring adults often give rise for us to be a piece in their puzzle.
Traditional methods are of course still available.  Email, phone and written correspondence along with old fashion face to face still provide accurate and effective methods of communication.  School is a place where we all work towards common goals, using various methods of communication.  What works for some, may not work for others.  Hence, variety is required.  In all this variety, nothing assures us the message will be sent, received and interpreted correctly. Just like in the Jewel Box, nothing guarantees the plants will grow.  Care and attention is necessary for successful communication and successful growth!
What does all this communication look like?
Phone, 636/668-8001
Press release, send to
Twitter, @McCracken63
School Reach calling service
Parent Portal for Grade Access,
Animoto Links
What is your preferred mode?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What does it mean:" I don't like to read?"

What can’t you do?  What is the last thing you learned?  Where was the struggle? 
"Deliberate Practice?" 
What does it take to change? Hope, change, inspire, faith, persistence, and resiliency.

We strive to have things under control.  We strive to do the best we can with what we have.  We strive to do as much as possible with what we have.

From our student’s perspective, we ask them to try something new every day.  We ask them to take risks.  We ask them to try again.  We ask them to persist, even though they may fail, over and over again.  (reminds me of Green Eggs and Ham)
But what if they don't know how?  What if there is no one in their life that models that type of behavior?  What if there are too many obstacles?  How will they be able to persist?  Educational Leadership speaks of Grit this month and what it takes to develop that attribute in others.  What is needed for educators to help kids try?  Here are some thoughts:

A safe environment, free from sarcasm from each other and the teacher is vital to trying new things. Often times, students know each other better than the teacher knows them.  The teacher is the new variable in the equation.  If kids have grown up using sarcasm, biting words and mean comments, the teacher is often the first one to recognize their mistreatment of each other, hold them accountable and raise a higher standard.  This is the beginning of creating a fail-safe environment and natural for good teachers.

An encouraging environment, where risk is embraced, taking chances is encouraged and failing is natural is a crucible for change.  Students will be willing to risk failing if they know the sweet sound of praise from success and the soft encouragement to persist and try again. (sounds like Green Eggs and Ham) If encouragement is too hard to earn or given too freely, risk taking diminishes and students fail to grow.  The question becomes can a teacher be too hard or too nice?  (Econ 101:  The Law of Diminishing Returns)

A loving and accepting environment, where approval is not based on actions but on humanity fosters esteem and self-confidence.  Students know they will be accepted for who they are.  Their behavior may become something that needs adjusting but as individuals, the students will develop and mature.  Attempts for attention through deviant behavior are often cries for help. 

Affirmation Building:
Positive talk to others, each other and to self.  Seldom do positive things happen without good talk to self.  This affirmation stage is foundational to preparing ones mind for success.  It seems obvious that a team should not talk trash to each other.  After a dropped pass, does the team need to remind the receiver to "watch the ball?"  But what about opponents?  Do they deserve trash talk?  Not from a true champion.  A winner does not need to berate others.  The loser wont have anything to say that really matters. Finally, SELF -TALK is the most important.  A dialogue that encourages and not tears down is something that needs to happen internally.  Believing in oneself is truly the beginning of success and accomplishment. 

A Worthy Reward:
The challenge has to align with the abilities.  It cant be too hard, nor too easy.  Either of those cases will reduce the effort.  There must be an authentic value to the goal for an earnest effort to reach the mark.  A great teacher aligns the steps, challenges and goals with the abilities of the pupils. 
Our Response:
So how do we respond when we hear: But I don't like to read!  I can't write!  I am not good at math!    What can we do to overcome these objections to learning?  They sound like things a salesmen may hear.  I don't like the color!  I can't afford it!  It does not fit!  None if these are saying:  I don't want it!  They are saying, I want it but don't know how to make it happen with my current resources! HELP is what they are truly saying.  Help me learn.  Help me want to learn.  Help me learn to learn.  I trust you!

It is a student who remarks about not being able, good at or understanding, NOT SAYING I AM UNWILLING!

He is crying for help to meet his unspoken or un-articulated goal!  That is for a teacher to jump in, get along side and help develop that skill!  That is a heavy goal.

Wow!  What an honor!

 “Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good.” - Malcolm Gladwell,